The Nun from director Corin Hardy is the latest entry in the Conjuring universe. Featuring a strong cast including Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga and Taissa Farmiga, The Nun‘s story gets in the way of a truly horrifying tale.
When I sit down to watch a horror film, I have to ask myself, what constitutes a scare? Is it a visual scare where you don’t know whose standing behind you, or is it something gruesome and gory? I saw the trailer for Corin Hardy’s The Nun a few weeks prior to the press screening, and there is one scene that scared the bejeesus out of me (admit it, you know which one I’m talking about.)
If anything, that scene excited me for this film.
But, I have two problems, and perhaps in the vein of the film, a confession.
The first problem is that, although Hardy does a solid job of offering a reference point in the Conjuring series, it would have been better if he hadn’t included it. My second problem is that other than some pent up tension because of the atmospherics, I wasn’t scared.
Now for my “Forgive me Father for I have sinned” moment: I haven’t seen any of the Conjuring films. So, the first problem is actually a benefit to someone like me, but it wasn’t necessary and it took me out of this story, which has solid characters who are given very little to do.
Gary Dauberman’s story is set in 1952 Romania. Having been attacked by an unseen presence, a nun kills herself. Word of this death and of the man, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) who discovered her body reaches the Vatican, who dispatches Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novitiate to the abbey.
I couldn’t help but think of Billy Friedkin’s The Exorcist and Paul W. S. Anderson’s Event Horizon as The Nun unfolded. Both films feature troubled, or tormented souls who seek some sort of absolution. That’s not to say that Bichir’s Father Burke is seeking absolution at this point, but he could trace his roots to a much earlier version of Jason Miller’s Damian Karras as he tries to steer clear of this assignment.
I mentioned Anderson’s Event Horizon because of its atmospherics. That story is full of gore and violence which is the key to its success, to a point. And that’s where The Nun fumbles: the natural, rocky landscape of Romania is scary enough. The continuous cloud cover doesn’t give much hope to our characters’ struggles.
I didn’t have a frame of reference for Vera Farmiga’s character in whatever Conjuring episode she was a part of, but I will say that her daughter, Taissa, was a strong presence in The Nun and a spitting image of her real life mother. It was odd, but I found a comfortable discomfort with her character as she descends into the madness of the abbey; her faith was as strong as her fear, but her devotion to a higher calling, which is not very adequately explained, made for an interesting character study.
Frenchie, played by Jonas Bloquet is a hired hand, who at this point in the story has never interacted with the nuns in the abbey. Frenchie starts out in a trepid manner. Bloquet’s approach to the character at the beginning of the film is almost endearing because he is like Indiana Jones: an adventurer who we are allowed to take a journey until we are consciously reminded that this is a spiritual journey taking us out of the moment. There were a number of moments where the scares and the horror were unintentionally funny, again taking us out of the moment.
This is my third problem with the film. It gets so convoluted as Dauberman and Hardy try to weave their way back into the Conjuring universe, that the atmospherics and the story fell flat and with that so too is our salvation.
Fans of the series, who are better versed on this than I will probably find a lot to enjoy. The characters and, to a point, the atmospherics were solid. However, the narrative lacked any real punch.
Now in theaters, The Nun has been rated R by the MPAA.